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Measuring αβ T-Cell Receptor-Mediated Mechanosensing Using Optical Tweezers Combined with Fluorescence Imaging


Stephens H.M. , Brazin K.N. , Mallis R.J. , Feng Y. , Banik D. , Reinherz E.L. , Lang M.J. . Optical Tweezers. 727–753


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T-cell antigen receptors (TCRs) are mechanosensors, which initiate a signaling cascade upon ligand recognition resulting in T-cell differentiation, homeostasis, effector and regulatory functions. An optical trap combined with fluorescence permits direct monitoring of T-cell triggering in response to force application at various concentrations of peptide-bound major histocompatibility complex molecules (pMHC). The technique mimics physiological shear forces applied as cells crawl across antigen-presenting surfaces during immune surveillance. True single molecule studies performed on single cells profile force-bond lifetime, typically seen as a catch bond, and conformational change at the TCR–pMHC bond on the surface of the cell upon force loading. Together, activation and single molecule single cell studies provide chemical and physical triggering thresholds as well as insight into catch bond formation and quaternary structural changes of single TCRs. The present methods detail assay design, preparation, and execution, as well as data analysis. These methods may be applied to a wide range of pMHC–TCR interactions and have potential for adaptation to other receptor-ligand systems.